Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Drinking Problem

One day the Seyboro Cyclists decided to ride to the beach. This is a regular occurrence – you ride about eighty miles (or a hundred if you want to start from a more distant location), you eat a big meal, you get driven back home, and a good time is had by all.

A beach ride was scheduled, but there were a few of us unfortunate souls who couldn’t give up the entire day to a bike ride, no matter how fun it would have been, so we decided to ride part way with the group and then turn around and head back home. We’d get a lot of miles, we’d get to ride with friends, it would be great.

There was one teensy little problem: it was hot.

No, let me rephrase that. It was scorchingly blisteringly hot.

The heat is not really my friend, but I was doing fine when we set out. (Of course I was. It was early in the morning, so it wasn’t hot yet.) My problem came at the turnaround point. By this time I was starting to feel a little bit cooked, and my bottles were empty. That’s when I made the mistake.

Since we’d be driving back, that meant we had a nice little convoy of vehicles with us, so they sagged the ride, carrying food and drinks for the rest of us. I needed to get my bottles refilled, and, as I wasn’t paying attention, they were refilled with a sports drink that I will call CrocodileAde instead of using its real name because I’m subtle that way.

Now, being a biologist by training, I understand about hydration and electrolyte replacement and natremia and borborygmus and defenestration. (Okay, so those last two aren’t, strictly speaking, related to drinking, but the next to last one is certainly related to many cyclists I have known and the last one would be a form of exercise.)

What was I talking about?

Oh, yeah.

Being a biologist by training, I understand about hydration and electrolyte replacement, but most sports drinks are just too thick and too sweet for my taste. I’d rather take an electrolyte replacement capsule and just drink water. I took my first sip of CrocodileAde, and it just sort of coated my mouth with sticky sweetness. This was not what I wanted while trying to ride in 90 degree plus temperatures. Gradually, without realizing it, I began to drink less and less.
By the time we got back onto home roads, I was dehydrated and fried.

We hit a road that I had ridden scores of times, and I figured I could do the ten or twelve miles home on that road under any conditions. After all, I had ridden that road in the wind, in the rain, in the group, after having been dropped…this was my territory, and I was comfortable. I was also wrong.

I was, however, not capable of doing more than about twelve miles and hour. We had a pick-up truck with us, and I could certainly have allowed them to pick me up, but I didn’t. I got some water from them and dropped some ice down my back, but the water was too little and too late. I tried to get the other riders to go on because I was afraid I was spoiling their ride, but they wouldn’t leave me.

So why didn’t I get in the truck? Well, it starts with st…

Stupidity? Stubbornness? Stupendousness?

Something like that, anyway.

Well, we slogged back home.


In fact, I think we gradually slowed down.

Well, I gradually slowed down out of necessity and they gradually slowed down so as to not leave me.

About two miles from the parking lot they left me. Finally. They wanted to sprint for home. I just wanted to crawl slowly. In fact, I think I was limping and crawling while riding my bike. I am a multi-tasker.

The driver of the truck decided to autopace me. This let me get my pace up to about twelve miles and hour, I think. I had never autopaced before. It might have been fun if I hadn’t been parboiled. I kept wanting to go faster, but all the driver had to do in order to speed up was press down on the accelerator, while I had to press on the pedals, and I just couldn’t press anymore. My path down the street was so wobbly that any passing police officer would have stopped me for a chat.

I finally dragged my sorry self back to the parking lot and pulled into the shade and stayed there.

Of course, I didn’t have my car and I lived three miles away from the parking lot…

No, I had my cell phone. I could call for pickup, and I did.


A few days later, with a camelback strapped on, I went for a sixty-five mile solo ride just to prove to myself that my problems had been due to poor hydration and not to just being me.

That was good.

Drink drink drink. Water, that is. That’s the thing.

See you on the road.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Fresh As A...Flounder?

It was 85 degrees out with a heat index of 95 and 59% humidity. Is that the most boring beginning to a blog post ever, or do I need to try harder? I thought I’d do a little exploring but wouldn’t push myself too hard because of the heat. It was like trying to ride while wearing a warm, wet blanket.


I decided to explore a little bit, which usually means that I’m going to get lost, and that is, in fact, what happened. The road I started out on has a few hills and a couple of dogs. Following some excellent advice left in a comment, I had a pocket full of rocks ready, but the two most troublesome dogs were penned up. They barked with deep regret as I passed, but other than vocally they were no-shows.

The county I live in has no signed bike routes, but I wandered into the next county and took bike route seven just to see where I ended up.

It was shortly after that I got lost for a time.

I had on a cap underneath my helmet, but, after a while, every time I had to stop for a stoplight or sign (What?! You stop at stop signs?!!! – Yes, especially when not stopping is likely to end up with me decorating someone’s front grille) the sweat would run down into my eyes.

I passed – and let us remember the temperature here – some people selling seafood out of a trailer on a corner, and not a refrigerated trailer, either. They had an umbrella over it, but that was pretty much it. I'm not sure how effective that was at keeping the fish fresh. Several items on their sign had been crossed off, either because they had sold out of it or it had gone so far bad that no one would possible buy it. I’m not going to try and figure out which.

The cars were especially bad at passing me. I don’t know why. Something in the air, maybe, like the smell of seafood that’s been baking in the sun all morning…

A guy on a motorcycle got behind me and honked at me. A guy in a flatbed truck got behind me and laid on the horn. Then someone screamed me in my ear and my heart rate went through the roof. It turned out that no one had screamed. I was being passed by a small truck, and the screaming sound was coming from it’s engine. I’m no mechanic or anything (in fact, I’m pretty much the complete opposite of a mechanic) but I don’t think it was supposed to sound like that.
I passed a school bus that had been converted into a flatbed truck. There are a lot of converted school buses around here. They must sell those things cheap.

I passed a road with a name I recognized (how do you forget a name like Titus Mewborn?) and turned on to it. A couple of miles later I was at an intersection that I knew well and, just like that, I wasn’t lost anymore. Nice.

After a nice thirty mile ride I was nearly back home when someone screamed in my ear again, and my heart rate shot up just like before. It turned out that the same truck was passing me again. Boy. I wish they’d get that thing fixed.

It was something of an eventful day, I guess. It was still a good ride, though I admit that I was kind of done in by the end of it, mostly due to the heat. And I hungry. I wonder if those guys selling the fish have, never mind.

See you on the road.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Tour de France

Do you like what is, in your household, town, state or county an obscure sport which seems simple to you but which nobody around you seems to understand despite its apparent simplicity?

Is the sport you like less complicated than the previous sentence?

Congratulations, you must be a cycling fan. Cyclin' Missy got me thinking about the TdF.

During most of the year, of course, many of the people I know have absolutely no interest in cycling at all (unless it is to wonder why I am so crazy as to do it), but then the magical month of July arrives…and they still have no interest in cycling at all. Unless, of course, Lance Armstrong has come out of retirement.

On the face of it, the Tour de France seems pretty simple: the guy who gets from the starting line (where ever it may be on any given year) to the finish line in Paris in the shortest amount of time wins the yellow jersey. What could be easier to understand?

Unless, of course there are time bonuses (which there aren’t this year, but – you never know – there may be again next year). And why are there teams if only one person can win? And what’s with those other jerseys?

I happened to have the race on yesterday, and my Lovely Lovely took a look at the TV and had an important series question for me:

“Did you see that guy?! What he wearing polka-dots? Why is that guy wearing polka-dots?!”

Well, he’s ahead in the King of the Mountains competition.

“So he wears polka-dots? Does he know how silly he looks? Even his pants and his helmet have polka-dots on them!”

I think he thinks he looks great in those polka-dots. I think he’s pretty proud to be wearing them.

"Well, it looks silly."

If it seems that my Lovely Lovely is more interested in the clothes than in the actual race, that’s only because it’s true. She is the light of my life, and I love her dearly, but professional cycling bores her. She isn’t really all that interested in clothes, but it’s more interesting to her than the actual race is.

Now, as a public service, I am going to answer the questions I get asked most commonly about the Tour de France. (Please note than none of these answers should be considered authoritative, because I am just some guy with a keyboard and not an expert on cycling.)

Is Lance Armstrong going to win the Tour de France this year?

Will Lance Armstrong be back to race the Tour de France next year?
He says he will. My magic 8-ball says he will. I haven’t called Tele-Psychic and asked them, though.

What’s with the controversy involving Lance Armstrong, Johann Bruyneel and Alexandre Vinokourov?
Okay, I just made that one up. None of the people who ask me about cycling have any idea who Johann Bruyneel and Alexandre Vinokourov are.

Is Lance Armstrong going to win the Tour de France this year?
You already asked me that. The answer is still no.

What’s that thing where all the guys on the same team ride together?
A team time trial.

Did Lance Armstrong win that?
Well, technically, the team wins or loses that, not just one guy.

Okay, so did Lance Armstrong’s team -
Yes. Yes they did. Yes.

How come so many guys in the race have unusual names? Why can’t they have simple and easy to pronounce names like
Don’t say it. You seem to have something of a narrow focus here.

Speaking of which, Is Lance Armstrong going to win the Tour de France this year?
Oh, dear. Watch and see.

Did they even have a Tour de France last year?

Did Lance Armstrong
No, that was Carlos Sastre.

Oh. He beat Lance?
No, Lance wasn’t in it last year. They decided to have the race anyway.

I don’t know. You’ll have to ask them.

Can I ask one more question?
Is it about Lance Armstrong?

Then, no. No you can’t.

I think I’ll go for a ride now.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Where Am I?

Wow. Fried by the sun and beaten to death by the wind all in the same day. Is this a great sport or what?! It was hot today. Everything was hot. Even the wind was hot.

At first I was going to say that it was like wind from Death Valley, but I suppose that a Death Valley wind would be dry, so, on second thought, this was more like a swamp wind. The wind blowing in your face (and it blew in my fact a lot today) was like having someone put a hot wet blanket on you. It was unpleasant is what I’m trying to convey.

Of course, where I ride isn’t actually swampy at all. You don’t hear the distant sound of a whippoorwill or the roar of an alligator. Around here, surrounded by corn and tobacco, by old shacks on the verge of collapse, apparently held together only by the kudzu, you’re more likely to hear the sound of a distant banjo being pluck by a young boy.

Ding-a-ding ding ding ding ding ding ding

Ride fast. Ride very fast.

I set myself a minimum pace to ride at, and I did finish the ride above that pace, but it was tough.

I passed a man who was all in brown – brown pants, brown shirt, brown hat, even his skin was brown. He was wearing green tinted sunglasses and had a big plastic tank on his back with a hose coming from it. As I passed him, he was vigorously pumping a handle attached to the tank. We each looked at the other curiously. It was a little weird.

I passed a subdivision which was clearly the place to find your thrill. If you’re old enough or your taste in music is varied enough, you now know the name of the place. If not, you’re probably confused by what you just read.

I got chased by a medium sized black dog. I was doing about twenty when the dog spotted me. Without even a second of hesitation, and paying no heed to the voice calling him, the dog took off after me. He was at a distant corner of the yard, so I wasn’t worried. The advantage was all mine.

Or so I thought.

From his first kick that dog started gaining on me., and I really had to lift the pace to leave him behind. I barely made it. The dog came out into the street after me, put his head down, and ran. I went up through the gears and pedaled as hard as I could, and I just managed to gap him. Once I got a gap, I was able to extend it and then the dog gave up, which is good, but I wasn’t going to be able to keep that pace up for any time at all.

And I got lost. Did I mention that?

I wanted to get at least thirty miles in, so I decided to explore a bit. I ended up exploring a lot and got well and truly lost. I had a vague idea which direction home was, so I started picking roads that looked like they might go in the direction I wanted, and I was eventually right, but only after an solid hour of wandering around with no clear ideas about where I was.

Why is it that riding roads you don’t know is harder than riding roads you do know?

I was tired by the time I finally got back home, but I felt great for having gotten some miles in.

Maybe I’ll manage to get some more tomorrow.

See you on the road.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

How Do You...

This is a tender and delicate subject, but I’m going to broach it anyway, because the Tour de France is going on at the moment, and the Tour de France always makes me think of this. (Some people just enjoy the sport. I think of things like this. Oh, well.) It is what Phil Liggett would call a “nature break.” You can always tell when a nature break is occurring because dozens of riders all pull off to the side of the road at the same time to…um…attend to their business. I don’t imagine that this is the sort of event the discerning fan particularly wants to witness, but there it is. When you get two hundred guys on the road for several hours at a time, there are things that need to be done.

Bob Roll tells a story (which I will not repeat here in all of it’s hilarious and intimate detail) about surprising some fans during the Tour de France when as urgent need overtook him suddenly on the road. (Just for the record, my mother was appalled, but my aunt almost hurt herself from laughing so hard, so I can’t say how you would react if you read the story, but get a copy of Bobke II: The Continuing Misadventures of Bob Roll and read it for yourself if you want to find out. (This is one of my two favorite cycling books, and you get an undiluted dose of Bob Roll’s personality in the bargain.)

The fact is, when you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go, and this is, oddly enough, one of the things that people ask me about the most – what do you do when you’ve got to go during the middle of a ride.

I did meet a guy on the road once who’s solution to this was to ride home as hard and as fast as he could. This was a guy I had seen once or twice on the road. I caught up with him and he immediately explained the situation. Apparently it was pressing on his mind. I passed him, let him draft off me (from which you may conclude that he couldn’t have been going all that fast after all) and then watched him nearly get splatted by a car because I, not having his clearly urgent need, stopped at the red light and he didn’t.

The obvious answer to “what do you do” is that you find a convenience store and make convenient use of it. This is the optimal solution. But what if you can’t find a store? What if you’re out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by trees and nothing else? Well, you’ll just have to find your own solution. I wouldn’t have any idea at all how to deal with a situation like that.

Sometimes, at a pro race, you can find a guy who really needs to do something but just doesn’t want to stop. Such a rider will sometimes call on a teammate to put a hand on his back and hold him up while he deals with the situation in motion. Sometimes, on a casual ride, you can find a guy who wants to do the same thing, but he isn’t usually able to find anybody willing to help him stay upright at such a moment, so he has to attempt the feat singlehanded. We do not recommend this.

First of all, wrecking at a time like this would probably be an exceedingly bad thing. I will not elaborate on this, but my imagination is vivid enough to paint an unpleasant picture, and I bet yours is, too. I now offer a formal apology to anyone who might still be reading at this point for putting pictures into your head. Sorry about that.

I do know of a case where someone did attempt this feat on a ride. (Let us be perfectly clear here – I am not talking about me. I have more sense than that.) He managed to perform his task and to stay upright, but he did suffer a slight problem. His water bottles were apparently…um…in the line of fire, so to speak, so he didn’t want to drink from them for the rest of the ride.

Now, when I started riding, this topic was not discussed in any of the books I read, and nobody I talked to mentioned anything about it. This is not surprising to me. Only a very strange person would write about this stuff.

Wait a minute. That didn’t come out right.

For reasons beyond my control I didn’t get a ride in this weekend, and it rained all day yesterday, so, though I could have ridden, I admit that I chose not to. That’s why posts like this happen. This just goes to show that the world is a better place when I get a chance to ride, doesn’t it?

I’m sure that I haven’t exhausted this particular topic, but I’ve probably said more about it than you ever thought you’d read, so I think I’m done for the time being.

See you on the road.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Leg Stretch

Sofa ride time.

I really just needed to go out and stretch my legs, so I climbed onto the hybrid and set out to pedal the neighborhood. The computer on the hybrid doesn’t work, so I couldn’t worry about things like pace or cadence even if I wanted to, and sometimes that’s a good thing.

As I set out, I passed a red headed guy out for a walk. I only saw him from the rear, since the idea of staring at him as I passed him seemed rude, but he turned his head slightly as I approached, and I thought that I saw a bushy red moustache to go with the read hair.

I was ducking into and out of every cul-de-sac in the place, not raising my heart rate and barely breaking a sweat despite the heat and humidity. I saw the red headed guy in the distance at another point, and then, after a couple of loops and swoops we ended up facing each other. As I got closer to him, I realized that “he” was, in fact, a “she” and there was nothing even vaguely resembling a moustache. I don’t know what made me think there was.

Offering a silent apology, I moved on.

I decided to go across the road and on into faerie land – a magical place that I only visited once before.

To get there, you travel down a road that is in positively terrible condition, filled with cracks, ruts and potholes. Then you see a sign that says, “State Maintenance Ends” and the road immediately becomes wonderful – smooth and easy to ride on. Make of that what you will. You then pass a sign that says, “Private Property”. If you are brave enough to continue on, you go over three speed bumps and you have arrived where the sun shines brighter but isn’t so hot and the air is sweeter and more refreshing.

As I approached the entrance to faerie land I saw a man on a bike ahead of me. He was not wearing a helmet, and he had what appeared to be a baby seat attached behind his saddle. Just as I had this thought he hit the first of the speed bumps, and the bundle behind his saddle bounced up and almost out like that stuntman in the chariot scene from Ben Hur. Not a baby then. Perhaps a bag of groceries.

I took a little turn to pass by the swimming pool. The last time I had seen it, it had resembled nothing so much as a science experiment, but now the water was blue, clear, cool and inviting. Nice.

I headed back to the road and pedaled on. Ahead of me, I saw the man on the bike go to the right, so I went left. I didn’t want him to think I was following him, after all.

At the end of the road I came to a spot I had seen once before: it was a cul-de-sac surrounded by trees. There were more houses on the other side of the trees. The ground sloped downward at the point and there was a narrow wooden bridge over a ditch. I went down the slope and over the bridge, and I was not in faerie land anymore. I know this because the first thing I saw was a rusted out pickup truck, and the first thing I smelled was cigarette smoke hanging in the air. There was a sharp downturn in the condition of the houses and of the road. (I suspected that State Maintenance hadn’t ended here.) I rode around until I found myself at a road I knew, and then I turned around.

As I headed back toward faerie land, I passed the guy on the bike. He did, in fact, have a baby in the seat behind his saddle. The child was wearing a helmet and was strapped in, but when he went over the speed bump, either the kid wasn’t strapped in or the straps were made of elastic, because the child went six inches up into the air at that point.

From this side, the slope down to the bridge was steeper and there was a raised lip on the bridge. It was harder to get back into faerie land than it had been to get out of it. As I headed down the slope and over a root, I thought about all the mountain bike riders who wouldn’t even have deigned to call this an obstacle. I am not of their number, but I made it back across with nothing more than a little spike in my heart rate.

I cruised the smooth roads and headed back out the way I had originally come in. A sheriff’s car passed me, and, a few minutes later, passed me again headed the other way. Interesting. Perhaps there can even be trouble in faerie land?

I headed back home after that. What else could compare, after all? It was a nice ride, if a little bit strange in spots.

See you on the road.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Quick Ride

I didn’t have much time – just enough for ten or twelve miles, but a little ride is a lot better than no ride at all, even if you have to start the ride downtown in a heavy traffic area.
I dropped the car off at my Lovely Lovely’s workplace with my bike in the back. I wandered inside to drop off the keys with the receptionist.

“You went in there in your bike clothes?” my Lovely Lovely asked me later. “Well, yeah.” That just netted me a strange look. Well, the first few times I wore a kit I felt like I must look like nothing in this world, but now I just wear them without thinking much about it. I’m quite sure whether or not I embarrassed her by walking in there dressed like that.

The main road was far too busy for me to want to tackle it on two wheels, but there was a labyrinth of small roads winding around all of these little office buildings. As I was finding my way through the maze, I was passed by a car with almost no clearance at all. I thought a few choice thoughts to myself. Ahead of me was a pickup truck stopped in the middle of the road. The car that had just passed me passed the truck, again with almost no clearance. Apparently it’s habitual with that fellow.

I went around the truck. It had three people, one large and two small, sitting in it. A quick turn put me next to the main road for a hundred yards or less. While I was there, I heard voices behind me arguing. I could only understand the occasional word – generally obscene, and the tone made it clear that unhappiness was in the air. The arguing voices got louder, and then the pickup truck passed me. Someone inside it was extremely unhappy and wanted to make sure that everyone, no matter how far away they might be, was aware of that fact.

The noise faded into the distance, and a quick cut through parking lot finally got me onto the road I wanted to be on, where I was stopped by cars turning off of the main road. I was too lazy to want to pull my feet out of the toe clips, so I did attractive little circles around the parking lot while several cars went down the road and then I pulled out after them.

My original idea had been to saunter the six miles back home, but, somehow, it just didn’t happen that way. It was really hot. The temperature was around 1,875 degrees F
(1,023.9 degrees C)*

*Rather than checking the weather report, I have chosen to estimate the temperature based on how I felt, so there may be a slight error in these numbers.

The wind was whistling down the road, and my legs didn’t feel great, but, somehow, I just kept going hard and picking up speed. I would sometimes decide to just cruise at the current speed, but my legs would assure me that we could go a bit faster, so we did. It was a hard ride, but a good one. I guess that one of the advantages of a short ride is that you can go as hard as you can. I was going so well that I took a longer route home and turned the six miles into twelve
miles – still short, but nice just the same.

There are people who will tell you that, if you only have a short time to ride, it isn't worth it. Don't you believe them. Ride when you can and your life will be better.*

*Not a guarantee. Void where prohibited. Offer good only between the hours of 12:01 am and 12:20 am on alternate Thursday in January during years with a full solar eclipse. Tax, tags and license fee extra. What's up Doc? Go, Speed Racer, Go.

See you on the road.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

More Flats For You

As I was driving in to work today, the radio announced that the torrential downpours moving across the state would miss us, unless something changed. Well, something apparently changed, so no ride for me today. This left me wondering what to write about, but Cyclin' Missy came to my rescue by leaving a nice long comment about her experiences with flats.

So, without further ado, here's Missy (with a few interpolations from me.

My first flat was out on a trail alone on my mountain bike.

Well, see, there’s your first problem – riding on a trail. They have a habit of not going out and paving those things, so you have that whole nature thing going on out there – thorns, prickers…um…thorns…bear teeth, maybe, all kinds of things, any one of which can puncture a tire. I don't actually own a mountain bike, so I don't actually ride trails, so I don't really know what's out there, so I'm just guessing, but I might be right. Stranger things have happened.

I had already ridden it quite a bit, so changing the tube wasn't too hard. It was also the rear tire, so I spent the majority of my first time changing a bike tube trying to get the darned wheel back on the bike. I eventually made it...after about a half hour.

I feel your pain. I know plenty of people who can whip that back wheel back into place with that seems to be no effort at all. After quite a bit of practice, I am still not one of those people. I can get the back wheel back on, but it takes me a few minutes. The first time I ever tried it, of course, it took me infinity minutes. That is, I was never able to do it and finally have to have someone do it for me. It’s good thing I wasn't out riding a trail alone or I’d probably still be there.

The second time I changed a tube, I was really just putting a new rear tire on my road bike.

Rear tire again. Why isn’t it ever the front tire?

Um…this is not to be taken to mean that I want my front tire to go flat. I’m just saying that, if I’m going to have a flat anyway, why shouldn’t it be in the front rather than the back.

The tire was worn from the previous owner's time on a trainer.

Trainers. That’s a whole post in itself, since the second worst wreck I ever had was actually on a trainer. Don’t try to figure it out. Actually, from the standpoint of what happened to the bike, it was the worst crash ever. From the standpoint of what happened to me, it wasn’t too bad.

I thought that after doing the mountain bike tire with little trouble, I could do the road bike tire in maybe 10 or 15 minutes. All went well until I tried to get the new tire itself on. I've since learned that a brand new tire isn't very "stretched out" yet, so I eventually sucked up my pride and threw the wheel in the car for a trip to the bike shop.

Welcome to my world.

The guys there were nice enough not to charge me to finish pulling the tire over the rim.

It’s like I said once before, every bike shop needs to have a Steve. It sounds like yours does.

I'm a little nervous about getting a flat out on my road bike now.

You can’t think about it. Just ride and let the flats take care of themselves. This is a good philosophy as long as you never get a flat.

I also have some CO2 cartridges now, but I've never used them. I've heard stories about blowing a stem right off the tube with one of those.

I, too, have heard scary stories about them, but I’ve used them twice now and never had any problems whatsoever. And if I can do something with no problem, then anybody can. Trust me on this.

But I always take my cell phone along with me on a ride, so if I fail, I guess can hope that my hubby will have his ringer on. Ha!

I feel your pain there, too. My Lovely Lovely often has her phone on silent. I hope that this will not ended up causing me to walk a great distance pushing a limping bike someday.

I know people who don't ride alone very far out of concern that something might happen. Of course, they're right, something might happen. I can't prevent it, so I'll just take what precautions I can (such as carrying a spare tube) and then go out and ride. So far, many things have happened - flats, dropped chains, shifter problems, close calls with cars or dogs, road rash, getting well and truly lost, and so on, but none of them have been too bad. If you thing about that sort of thing too much, you'll just drive yourself crazy.

And what do I do when I'm driving myself crazy? I got for a ride, of course, and so should you.

See you on the road.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Early Morning Onwards

Sunday morning, bright and early. Well, it was definitely early, but I was not exactly bright. Despite the fact that I was running on way too little sleep, my body decided that I would be awake now. I disagreed, but my body won. I figured that, since I was up while everyone else was asleep, I might as well go for a ride.

The last ride I was on, I had a GGRRRREEATTTTTT! legs. That ride got cut short by a flat, and I remember expressing the hope that I would have GGRRRREEATTTTTT! legs on my next ride.

We now pause for derisive laughter.


Good. Let’s move on, shall we?

While changing the aforementioned flat, I noticed that my tires were in rather sad shape. A quick trip to the bike shop revealed that they only had one tire in stock, and I was clearly in need of two. I bought one and placed one on order, all of which meant that my trusty bike wouldn’t be heading out of the stable for the next few days. Fortunately, I have my trusty Trek 1000 still handy. It has toe clips on it now instead of clipless pedals (I still have the scars from making the change) but that’s okay.

The Trek is occasionally ridden by someone who sometimes disagrees with the computer about how many miles he’s gone. (“How far did you go?” - “About ten miles.” It’s always ten miles, though a glance at the computer will show anything from 3.5 miles to 9.5 miles. Must be a hole in the space-time continuum. )

I climbed into the saddle and hit the road where I promptly got pounded into submission by the wind. It was unrelenting and just about beat me to death. I rode for about 36 miles, and there was one glorious 4 mile stretch when the wind was pushing me in the direction I wanted to go. Other than that…well, it was tough.

The wind is my friend.

This is what we tell ourselves, and today the wind was my friend by making sure that I got stronger.

It was a dog intensive day. The three sisters were out and ready to run, but I fooled them. I did this by going so slowly that it was utterly uninteresting to chase me, so they left me alone. A miniature dachshund came after me, its little legs churning like mad, but it didn’t come anywhere near me. A little while later I got chased by a dog that shouldn’t have existed outside of a cartoon. I have no idea what it was. It looked like a mouse on steroids, but it was definitely barking. It didn’t actually leave its yard and couldn’t run over five miles per hour anyway, so I didn’t get a very good look at it.

There were several other loose dogs, but, fortunately for me, none of them raised my heart rate for me.

There was also the fact that I deviated from my planned route – I don’t know why – and I got lost. I had a vague idea that home was over that way somewhere, or possible over this way but I eventually got back there, so it all worked out.

It was just a really hard ride.

Still, every ride is a good ride.

P.S. The title of this post is a reference to one of my favorite musical groups. Anybody out there get it?

See you on the road.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Flat as Flat Can Be

It took some effort, but I managed to tweak my day to make time for a ride. As I figured it, I had an hour and twelve minutes. A odd number…well, an even number, actually, but you know what I mean – an unusual number, perhaps, but that was what I had. I hit got kitted out and hit the road. It was hot, it was windy, and my legs felt great. I don’t just mean “really good” either, I mean great, and not just great but Tony the Tiger “GGRRRREEATTTTTT!”

I was just flying right from the start. The heat didn’t matter. The wind didn’t matter. This was apparently my day. I don’t know what I hit. I didn’t see it when I hit it, and I didn’t find it when I went back to look for it. I know that I felt it and I heard the “whump” of the impact and I heard a noise like “Brppphhffffffewwwwww” (I think that's how you spell it) and three second later my tire was out of air. I stopped. It was a rear wheel flat, darn it.

My History With Flats

I haven’t had that many flats, so I can recall each one.

1. My first flat was on a group ride. Or, rather, right before a group ride was supposed to start. That was the time Jörg looked up at me and asked, “Why am I changing this for you?” “Because you don’t want to wait twenty minutes to leave and are too nice to leave without me?” I guessed. That must have been it, because he continued to fix the tire for me.

2. I discovered my second flat when I was getting ready to go out on a solo ride, so I got out my handy-dandy bike repair book, studied a bit and then changed the tire while sitting on my couch. It was a rear wheel flat, and, after I got the tube changed and inflated, I discovered that I couldn’t get the wheel back on.

What to do, what to do…

At the time I had a little two door hatch back car. I took the front wheel off the bike (I knew I could get that one back on) and discovered that there was just room for the frame in the back of my car if I shoved my seat about as far forward as I could get it. This was clearly unsafe, with the steering wheel making indentations on my rib cage, so I was glad the bike shop wasn’t far away.

I got to the bike shop and dragged my back in and explained to Steve what had happened. He didn’t laugh very hard. He then showed me the trick to getting the back wheel back on (it turns out it matters which gear you’re in. Who knew? Well, Steve did, for one. I didn’t. I then had to get the bike back into my car and get us both back home. I made it before I ran out of breath. (It’s really hard to breathe with a steering wheel kissing your sternum.)

3. My third flat happened on the road as I was returning from a group ride. I was less than half a mile from home, so I just walked the bike home and changed the flat there. (Yes, I know that I should probably be ashamed to admit that, but there it is. I just didn't want to have a go at changing the flat on the road. What can I say? At least I'm honest about it.)

4. 5. My fourth (and now fifth) flats happened out on the road while I was on solo rides, and I changed them successfully. (I didn't really have a whole lot of choice in either case. I wasn't going to walk my bike that far.) These two times were the first times I ever used CO2 cartridges to refill the tire, and I somehow managed that. (Even though I’ve done it twice, I still don’t actually know how I did it. I’ll figure it out one day.)

If you've read much of this blog, you may have gathered by now that I am not mechanically inclined. I am, in fact, mechanically declined, I'm sure.

Anyway, getting a flat certainly put a damper on my great ride, although, while I was in the process of changing it (and seeing how many body parts I could get grease on at the same time, apparently) a nice gentleman in a pickup truck stopped to ask if I needed any help. I said "no" which, for a few minutes, I though may have been overly ambitious, but I made out. I headed back home and used what had been my precious ride time to head to the bike shop and pick up a new tube. Also, while I was changing the tube, I noted that my tires are not in any too good a shape, either, so I needed a couple of those as well.

Still, the ride was GGRRRREEATTTTTT! while it lasted.

Tomorrow a ride is probably out of the question, but I can always hope. Maybe next time I climb into the saddle my legs will feel the same way they did today.

Wish me luck.

See you on the road.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

No Ride For You?

“I’m sorry you’re having a bad day,” my Lovely Lovely said.

“I’m not having a bad day,” I told her. “I’m have a stupid day.”

It started off with a discussion of whether I was going to ride to work or I was going to toss my back into the belly of the 2000 pound beast, let my Lovely Lovely drop me off on her way to work and merely ride back home again at the end of the work day. I was in favor of option number one, for reasons that I felt were cogent and sound. She was in favor of option number two for the reason that she didn’t want me to ride to work.

So, after being driven to work…

Well, actually, after being driven to where my Lovely Lovely works, I pulled the bike out to ride over to where I work (a distance of possibly a mile if I stretch it) only to discover that I had left my water bottle, carefully filled, sitting at home. (This was what prompted the exchange I started out with.) Granted, I didn't need to bottle on my way to work, but I might miss it on the way home.

As I pedaled away, I suddenly wondered if I had brought my book with me. A quick dig through the messenger bag showed that my book, too, was sitting at home.

I pulled up at a stoplight to turn left onto a busy road. Of course, you never know about traffic lights…how sensitive is the sensor? After a few minutes, I looked up at the light and said, “This light is not gonna change for me.” An instant later I heard a roaring sound behind me. “But it will change for a truck!” The truck pulled up next to me and then roared again. “But not if the truck turns right on red instead of staying put.” Oh, well.

It’s gonna be one of those days…

Fortunately for me, it turned out that the truck stayed just long enough to trip the sensor, so the light changed and let me through. (For those of you (not the egotistical use of the plural form showing my hope that more than one person might actually be reading this…) who are wondering why I didn’t just go on through the light (which is perfectly legal if the light won’t change for you*) it’s because the darned road was so busy that I would have been splatted if I had tried such a hare-brained move.

*Please note that this is not legal advice, and, if it turns out to be wrong, the police officer giving you the ticket will not be impressed if you tell him someone called lunicycle said it would be okay.

*Also please note that this is not safety advice, and you run the risk of ecountering hostile traffic and having an unpleasant demonstration of the truth of some of the basic laws of physics, and the doctor taking care of you will not be impressed if you tell him someone called lunicycle said it would be okay.

*And, finally, please note that, since these notes are in the middle of the text, they clearly can’t be footnotes, and I have no idea what they should be called. Thank you.

After I left work I had to run by my mom's to do some errands for her, and she finished by asking, "Don't you want me to drive you home?"

Nobody wants me to ride today, apparently.

As I finally headed home, I was passed by a guy on a small motor scooter. I felt a little kinship with him. True, he had a motor, but he was also small, traveled under the speed limit and was unprotected out on the road should a passing 2000 pound beast decided to swat him. He must have felt a kinship with me, because, after he passed, he held up his hand in a wave and left it there until I responded.

I watched him turn off ahead of me, but about ten minutes later he passed me again. I remember thinking, "Oh. It's him again," and then wondering if he had the same thought.

I also got passed by two vans with big bold letters on their sides proclaiming that they contained "inmate workers." Each van was pulling a trailer holding a port-a-potty, a pile of traffic cones and a metal cabinet. I guess you never know where you'll be working, so it's good to be prepared.

I also saw an Archie Bunker couch and a big console TV sitting outside on someone's lawn. I didn't stop to ask why.

The things you see on the road, eh?

Despite the way the day started, and despite a bit of opposition from people who mean well, I did finally get a little ride in. I wish it could have been longer, but it was still good. I just want more.

See you on the road.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Slow and Easy

I went on a sofa ride today, mostly just to stretch my legs and wash out the lactic acid from yesterday’s effort. It was kind of windy, but I didn’t care because I was pretty much committed to not much effort today, so all I did was slow down. It takes away a lot of the push when you really don’t care how fast (or, more to the point) how slow you go.

I was just cruising, heading anywhere I took into my pointy little head to go, wandering through neighborhoods and subdivisions as the whim struck me.

I noticed that there are a lot of personalized mailboxes out there. Polka dots are the most popular, both black and white and multi-colored, but I saw a mailbox with a little metal horse on top of it, rainbows, a pennant festooned with the letter “J”, (yes, I did say festooned) and, best of all, a giant fish. It was an iridescent green, and its wide open mouth held the mailbox door. This is kind of kitschy cool. I wouldn’t want one, mind you, but it was kitschy cool all the same.

Unlike most days, I was kind of glad not to run into any other cyclists on the road today, because I was so clearly slacking off…I mean, on a recovery ride. Yeah, that’s it. It was a recovery ride.

Perhaps the most interesting thing that I saw was a snakeless skin. That is, an empty snake skin which had apparently been shed by its previous owner, which is not to say that there is a skinless snake out there somewhere.

Talk about a lazy no pressure ride…I just sort of oozed my way up hills, ignored the wind by simply slowing down if it blew harder and generally just had a nice pleasant time. Every car that passed me (and they were few and far between) did so with courtesy and kindness. That was the icing on the cake.

Sometimes this is exactly the kind of ride I’m in the mood for.

Tomorrow, it’ll probably be different.

See you on the road.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Free to Ride

I woke up at 6:40 am. I didn’t want to wake up at 6:40 am, but there it was whether I wanted it or not. So, what do you do on your day off when you wake up way early and can’t get back to sleep? You get up and go for a ride, of course. I picked out a nice forty mile route full of hills, and I was actually looking forward to it for some strange reason. Glutton for punishment, I guess..

When I hit the road, my legs did not actually feel very good. I rode through my neighborhood, which includes a couple of leisurely hills. I blamed my poor legs on the wind (and on the fact that my legs are just poor) and then, as I got out of the neighborhood I happened to look down and ask this rather pertinent question: “What the heck am I doing riding in such a high gear?” Huh. It turns out my legs were better than I thought, but my brain was apparently not so good. Perhaps it was still asleep.

Actually, I ended up feeling really good, wind or no wind (and there was definitely wind) and I was largely able to keep my pace up where I wanted it, though there did come a point about thirty miles in, when it began to occur to me that some people have the gift of pushing themselves even when they ride alone, and some don’t. It’s easier for me to push myself if someone else is going hard and I’m trying to keep up with them, but I was determined to keep the pace up today, and I did it.

I encountered various things on this ride: Yard sales. Lots of yard sales, some of them even in yards, and some of them in parking lots, making them, I suppose, parking lot sales. I even saw a sign that said, “Free Yard Sale. Everything must go.” Free yard sale? I didn’t even try to figure that one out.

I did notice that most of these yard sales featured a variety of bicycles. Where do these bicycles come from and why aren’t people riding them?

I came perilously close to encountering an eighteen wheeler that was apparently driven by a man who didn’t know the meaning of that double yellow line down the middle of the road.

I encountered a couple of loose dogs, but they were relatively polite, chasing but not barking, chasing but never coming into the street. The two dogs who chased me last time weren’t ready for me. They didn’t see me until I was past their yard, and I was moving well, so they barked but didn’t bother to chase much.

I encountered another cyclist coming toward me. It always makes me happy to see other cyclists out riding the roads, and I always wondered if it was just me. That question was answered, because the approaching rider grinned and waved at me. I warned him of the loose dogs that he was headed toward.

Aside from the aforementioned semi and one van, the vehicles passed me politely, which was greatly appreciated. I started out gently, not killing myself on the first hills, but there is one hill at about the fifteen mile mark on this route that really used to take the starch out of my legs, and the last time I rode this route, I resolved to hit that hill hard, and I did. I determined to do the same thing, and I fairly flew up it, but I ended up slowing down at the top because the road was really rough and because I trying to catch my breath and my breath was going too fast for me to catch it.

All in all, I hit the entire route hard and did really well. I was feeling it by the end, mind you, but that’s okay. That’s rather a nice feeling because it lets you know you did something. I’m hoping to squeeze in another ride tomorrow morning.

See you on the road.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Half and Half

Today I took a newbie on a ride. He is…how shall I put it…athletically inclined. (I, on the other hand, am not. I am, in fact, a card carrying geek who lived as a couch potato (well, computer desk potato) until the bright idea of buying a bicycle occurred to me and I found an athletic practice that didin’t require depth perception, coordination or grace.) Because he is athletically inclined, he wants to be good on the bike. Because he is a teenager, he doesn’t want to be shown up by someone who his nearly thirty years older than he is. Both of these things are perfectly understandable.

He’s ridden a few times – one or two miles around the neighborhood and then a reported twenty miles out by himself one day. We headed out bright and early while it was still cool and there wasn’t much traffic.

I did all the things that one does with a new rider – I sprayed instructions and advice like a fount of wisdom, which is probably just as annoying as it sounds, though he, in fact, followed most of the advice. (The one piece he ignored was to shift up and trying spinning at something less than 125. Apparently he likes to keep his legs moving.)

I also chose a flat route, kept the pace low, reminded him to drink, let his draft off of me nearly all of the time, that sort of thing. When we arrived at the volunteer fire station which is five miles from the house (comfortingly close, don’t you think?) I told him we had gone five miles. His quads were hurting him, so we pulled over and let him stretch, checked his saddle height, talked about riding posture and then turned around to ride the five miles back to our starting point.

He still had some fire at the end of the ride, because he pushed himself to go hard up one last hill. Nicely done. I dropped him off and then headed out to get some more miles on my own – hard ones with hills because I’m a glutton for punishment. (Actually, it’s because I know I need to ride stronger than I do, so I might as well push myself.)

That ride was hard but good until the two dogs came out after me, one of them baying like the hound of the Baskervilles and apparently out for blood. I was heading up a (fortunately for me!) not very steep hill and I had to hit thirty mph before I dropped them. (Only one of them came out into the street after me and ran at my heels, but one was enough.) The really bad thing was that I had to go back that way to get home again, and there was quite a steep hill not far past their house in that direction.

Going back that way meant risking life, limb and skin, but I had no choice.

I pulled over and picked up some rocks to put in my pocket.

On the way back I had some rocks ready to hand and then here they came, both of them running out into the street this time. I tossed a rock at the first one, and I missed, but apparently it was enough to make him remember an appointment that he had somewhere else, so he left.

The vicious one – the one that made me think he wanted to see the color of my insides – came hard after me. I threw a rock at him. Missed again. It apparently scared him, though, because he moved over to the other side of my bike. I threw another rock. Missed again. (I did mention that sports are not my strong suit, didn’t I?) but apparently the fact that rocks could come at him no matter which side of my bike he was one was enough to make him change his mind about the chase and go find something else to do, and they left me in peace rather than in pieces.

The rest of the ride was uneventful but fun, and I am definitely ready for me.

See you on the road.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Today I did something not merely dangerous but absolutely foolhardy. I attempted to use my tool kit to perform a mechanical task. As I have noted before, if you hand me a tool kit you might as well go ahead and hand me a box of gauze, some bandages and a phone with 911 on speed dial. I proved the truth of that sentiment today.

The mechanical task in question was a simple one – swapping out the pedals on a bike.

I have a 16 year old who has decided he wants to try riding. I’m letting him use my trek 1000, and I had two options – spend 200 bucks for him to get a pair of shoes and cleats to use the clipless pedals that are already on there or spend 25 bucks for a pair of pedals with toe clips.

Guess which one I chose.

I went to my friendly local bike shop and talked to Steve, wrench extraordinaire. Steve showed me how to put the pedals on.

(Once, after I got my handy dandy and (till now unused) toolkit, Steve asked, “You’re just dying to use that toolkit, aren’t you?” I admitted it, and he said, “Don’t be in such a hurry.” It was good advice, and, for once, I had the wisdom to follow someone’s good advice.)

“Now, this is the left pedal,” Steve said, pointing.

“How do you know?”

“These ridges right here,” he said, pointing them out. Then he flipped the pedal over to show me that part the he didn’t need to use but that I did, “And also because it says ‘L’ right here. But we use the ridges.” I know he did, because he hadn’t even glanced at the label, but the label was just about my speed.

Steve then explained that the pedals are opposite threaded. They both loosen toward the back of the bike and tighten toward the front, which, as Steve pointed out, makes perfect sense. If you’re pedaling, you don’t want that action to loosen one of the pedals.

I got home, and my Lovely Lovely, busy cleaning out a hamster cage, saw what I was doing and said, “I thought it was lefty loosey and righty tighty.”

“Don’t go there,” I said. “Not with pedals.” I really gave the impression that I knew what I was talking about and, for once, I actually did, thanks to Steve.

Anyway, at the cost one smashed finger, I did get the pedals changed out, which is pretty good for me. I handled tools and didn’t need a trip to the emergency room afterwards. Excellent.
I tried the bike out just to make sure that I hadn’t somehow damaged something, and it worked find, although I did discover that, after several years of using clipless pedals, I have lost the knack of getting my feet into the toe clips. I can do the first one all right, then I get rolling and try to get the second foot in, but the toe clip makes the pedal want to hang upside down so you have to flip it over and jam your foot in there without either falling over or hitting something…I was pretty good at it once upon a time, but those days are gone. Pretty soon we’ll see how good a new rider is at it.

I’m busy rehearsing all the things I’ll need to tell him, starting with the fact that, contrary to the opinion held by nearly all teenagers, he is neither invulnerable nor immortal. Also, there are rules of the road. Wish me luck. At least I’m not having to teach anyone how to drive. That’s a plus.

See you on the road.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


I had a two for one sale today.

My Lovely Lovely drove me to work with my bike in the belly of the beast. I parked it in one of the classrooms because, well, I had to park it somewhere, and I don’t think the bike racks outside look particularly solid, somehow.

Seeing it, one of the students asked me how far away I lived. “Oh, just six miles is all.” The student was impressed by the idea of riding a bike six miles, while I was thinking that it was barely a ride at all. Same language, different worlds.

When it was finally time to head home, it was 92 degrees out. The sky was nearly cloudless, and the wind could have been unpleasant. Fortunately, however, it was blowing in the right direction.

I got stopped at road construction. There was the guy holding the sign that ordered us all to stop, there was the one car in front of me, there were the various cars lining up behind me. The guy finally turned the sign to the side that says, “Slow.” As I pedaled past him, I said, “Slow is the only speed I’ve got in this heat.”

“I heard that,” he said. I assume that was agreement and not merely acknowledgement that I was audible, but I could be wrong.

I took it easy all the way home, but the water in my bottle, filled up from the fountain but with no ice, tasted warm and flat. I cruised into the garage and then decided to go for a real ride. Since I had skipped lunch, I went for some instafood.

In-sta-food /ɪn-stə-füd/ - any substance sold in can which is designed to be plopped into a bowl, microwaved and eaten (not the can, the substance in the can). While it is marketed for human consumption, this should not be taken to indicated that it is either (A) palatable or (B) actually edible. Common ingredients include pasta, rice, a meat-like substance and (presumably) styrofoam, rubber bands, and wood caulk.

I followed this up with a couple of precautionary antacids, got kitted out and hit the road, covered in sunscreen. I figured I had less than an hour before my Lovely Lovely would get home from work, and I didn’t want to fry my brain in the heat, so I went for an easy fifteen miles.
The wind had other ideas about how easy my ride would be, but voicing my complaints, which I did, didn’t seem to have much effect on it.

I passed a giant farm machine spraying a mysterious fluid onto dirt. When I later passed that same spot again, the farm machine was gone, but it had left a cloying odor in it’s wake that make me wonder how much good breathing it in was doing my lungs. Hooray for the great outdoors.

The rest of the ride was quite pleasant, really, except for the heat. I'm not sure how much of my water I drank and how much of it I poured down the back of my neck. I do remember emptying my first bottle and grabbing the second, which was insulated. That water was still ice cold when it hit my back, and it was pleasant agony as it rolled down my back. I also cheated and took a break for a moment in the shade of a building.

I managed to make it home and get showered just in time to greet my Lovely Lovely as she got home from work. This was what I call a good day. Two rides. Not bad at all.

See you on the road.